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A Field Guide to Creative Syncretism, or, How People Make and Remake Institutions
Unformatted Document Text:  Berk and Galvan, Field Guide to Creative Syncretism 17 Table 1: Where to Find Creative Syncretism -- Empirical and Analytic Settings Types of institutional change Temporal Spatial Hierarchical Empirical Circumstances (when syncretism most likely to occur) • “Old” and “new” institutions overlap in effort to promote progress through chronological phases • Learning, borrowing across locations to reproduce “best” practices • Imposition/transfer of “advanced” institutions to places “in need” or “backward” Empirical Results (new institutional forms created) • US craft associations • Direct democracy, Portland, Oregon • US Antitrust • Japanese mgt style in US auto industry • Mediterranean clientelist welfare state • Land pawning, Senegal • Kin wage labor, Nigeria • Loya jirga, Afghanistan Literatures/problematics involving institutional change Historical Institutionalism Diffusion & Learning Development & Postcolonialism Analytic Circumstances (when syncretism is most helpful) When empirical complexity does not fit into “eras”, when teleology breaks down When diffusion fails to generate congruence or when local adaptations escape national character expectations. When “progressive” institutions do not transform society & culture Resolves These Analytic Conundrums • Intercurrence • Path dependence • Synergy, state in society, embedded autonomy • Weak metaphors: grafting, soil, hyrbidity • Parsonian stereotypes: anti-modern cultures, stubborn tradition • Modernity of tradition • Concatenation Surmounts Conundrums with Alternative Framing Addresses above analytic problems according to these principles: 1. Decomposability & recombinability of structure 2. Creativity & reflexivity of agency 3. Multiplicity of institutions 4. Incongruity within & between institutions Suggests Alternative Research Focus (on nature of raw materials & creative work) Archeological Cosmopolitan Subaltern In an effort to develop an endogenous theory of change, Orren and Skowronek (1992, 2002), Thelen (1999, 2000), Crouch and Farrell (2003) and others have redirected our focus toward the fragile, disordering, and dysfunctional features of institutions. We learn that the match between institutional orders and temporal sequence is never as neat as the cyclical image of eras of openness and closure suggests. Old institutions live on in new eras; challenged by earlier attachments and routines, new institutions are only partially born; history’s losers don’t

Authors: Galvan, Dennis. and Berk, Gerald.
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Berk and Galvan, Field Guide to Creative Syncretism
17
Table 1: Where to Find Creative Syncretism -- Empirical and Analytic Settings
Types of institutional change
Temporal Spatial
Hierarchical
Empirical
Circumstances
(when syncretism
most likely to
occur)
“Old” and “new”
institutions overlap in
effort to promote
progress through
chronological phases
Learning, borrowing
across locations to
reproduce “best”
practices
Imposition/transfer of
“advanced” institutions
to places “in need” or
“backward”
Empirical Results
(new institutional
forms created)
US craft associations
Direct democracy,
Portland, Oregon
US Antitrust
Japanese mgt style in
US auto industry
Mediterranean
clientelist welfare state
Land pawning, Senegal
Kin wage labor, Nigeria
Loya jirga, Afghanistan
Literatures/problematics involving institutional change
Historical
Institutionalism
Diffusion & Learning
Development &
Postcolonialism
Analytic
Circumstances
(when syncretism is
most helpful)
When empirical
complexity does not fit
into “eras”, when
teleology breaks down
When diffusion fails to
generate congruence or
when local adaptations
escape national character
expectations.
When “progressive”
institutions do not
transform society &
culture
Resolves These
Analytic
Conundrums
Intercurrence
Path dependence
Synergy, state in
society, embedded
autonomy
Weak metaphors:
grafting, soil, hyrbidity
Parsonian stereotypes:
anti-modern cultures,
stubborn tradition
Modernity of tradition
Concatenation
Surmounts
Conundrums with
Alternative
Framing
Addresses above analytic problems according to these principles:
1. Decomposability & recombinability of structure
2. Creativity & reflexivity of agency
3. Multiplicity of institutions
4. Incongruity within & between institutions
Suggests
Alternative
Research Focus

(on nature of raw
materials &
creative work)
Archeological Cosmopolitan Subaltern
In an effort to develop an endogenous theory of change, Orren and Skowronek (1992, 2002),
Thelen (1999, 2000), Crouch and Farrell (2003) and others have redirected our focus toward the
fragile, disordering, and dysfunctional features of institutions. We learn that the match between
institutional orders and temporal sequence is never as neat as the cyclical image of eras of
openness and closure suggests. Old institutions live on in new eras; challenged by earlier
attachments and routines, new institutions are only partially born; history’s losers don’t


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